Art is ‘alive’ at the Centre Gallery

For an art major, there’s always a need to create – even after graduation.

The Marshall Student Center (MSC) Centre Gallery is hosting the exhibition “We’re Still Alive” this week where nine former and current USF fine arts students are displaying their work to show they still make art a priority despite entering the workforce.

The gallery uses different forms of media, including sculpture, photography, drawing, painting, live music and video.

Elizabeth Atkins, USF alumna and program supervisor, is a fortunate yet uncommon student who has been able to maintain an art career since graduating in 2007.

“The premise of the show is people that work and people that have actual real jobs (who) afterward come home and still make art,” Atkins said.

Working with current and former students presented the challenge of getting everyone on the same page. But Atkins said it all went smoothly.

“We all had a show date and it was nice to work with them because all of them are really reliable, and everybody just came in and installed their piece,” she said. “Working with that many people could be a disaster, but it turned out really well.”

Atkins’ friend and USF alumni Joe Clay pitched the gallery idea to Atkins in spring 2009, because he missed making art in his post-collegiate life. By October 2009, Atkins had 10 people lined up for the show.

Clay said it can be hard to keep artistic passion alive when it’s not the focus of your life.

“You have to have the drive to show stuff, and I think that’s the drive that people lose,” he said. “For me, I still work in a similar industry, but others don’t.”

Clay, whose wife is also in the exhibit, has two videos on display – “The Fallow” and “Dead Town” – that put his degree in electronic media to use.

“‘Dead town’ is about how Tampa Bay downtown has been dead for so long, but it’s not where it could (be),” he said. “(I’m) trying to illustrate that, even with the slight bit of growth, it’s still inactive compared to major metropolitan cities.

“Most of my family is from this area and they used to tell me how they used to shop and everything down there and now there’s almost nothing.”

Keith Thomas, a senior majoring in fine arts, is juggling school, art and a wedding.

His gallery piece – which is a collage of drawings from Craigslist’s ads – depicts his fascination with the Internet.

“I’m obsessed with Internet communities and just communities overall,” Thomas said. “I’m excited about being the first generation of people to have the Internet through all the physical stages of their life.

“There are times where you are trying to figure out where you are and where you’re going in life, and I realized how much the Internet influences these stages,” he said.

But it’s not just the talent and drive to create art that remains with the students in this exhibit. For them, the art world is also an enduring community.

“It’s about that sense of being an artist and keeping the community as a part of your work,” Thomas said. “Even though these people have graduated, we still stay in touch. We talk on the phone pretty much every week, but that’s part of maintaining the community and keeping people who are interested in making work.”

It’s about “keeping in contact with people that support you and you support their work,” he said.

The gallery, located in MSC 2700, is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We’re Still Alive” will remain on display until Friday.